With help from their families and models from The Lions agency, students showcased their sustainable outfits in the second annual Eco-Fashion Show last Friday night.
Each student designed and constructed their ensemble using recycled or upcycled material. This year’s collection was based on five themes: water, waste, energy, schoolyard habitats and healthy schools.
With dozens of parents in the audience and cameras flashing away, the young designers and models strutted down the runway while a description of their outfit was read aloud.
Philip Liew, a fourth-grader at PS 34, created a raincoat using a garbage bag as a base and blue-painted bubble wrap glued on top. He also sported boots using old Amazon packages attached to slippers using duct tape.
He finished his ensemble with an old umbrella with blue plastic bags, and connected it to an eco-filter. Liew’s theme was water.
“Whenever I think of the environment, water is always a big part of it,” he said. “So when Ms. Wong mentioned the themes, I knew I had to choose water.”
While brainstorming his design, Liew said a raincoat, boots and umbrella were the first items “that came to my mind.”
In addition to creating a design, Liew said he and his classmates also learned about the issues affecting the environment.
“I learned that there’s only a limited amount of freshwater remaining on earth, and we shouldn’t waste it, or else we’ll have no water to drink,” he said. “That’s how I came up with the idea of the eco-filter on my umbrella, to save the rainwater and convert it into drinking water.”
The fourth-grade student is already a veteran of the Eco-Fashion Show. He also participated last year, when he dressed up in bike wear to represent Greenpoint’s present.
“It was super fun, especially walking on the runway,” Liew said. “I felt that the work me and family did was really worth it, not only for the fun, but for others to understand.”
Fifth grade student Imogen Sheehan’s energy-themed outfit was made from a paper bag with yellow and white plastic bags as fringe. She sported a glowing LED belt, necklace and bag, as well as Christmas lights and even solar panels.
“I thought it was important to talk about how much energy is wasted on things that aren’t very useful,” Sheehan said. “I wanted to show that in my outfit.”
For example, she used Christmas lights because she wanted to convey how much much energy is wasted on them. The country burns 6.63 million kilowatts per hour to shine Christmas lines during the holidays, according to Sheehan’s outfit description.
Prior to walking the runway, the students were coached by models from the management agency The Lions. Ava Smith, who is also a Greenpoint resident, said they spoke with the students not only about the runaway, but also about the importance of sustainability.
Smith said she was impressed by the specific environmental concerns the students had about topics like marine life, litter, consumption and waste.
“I’ve been inspired by the creativity and passion that these kids have for doing something beneficial for the environment,” she said. “That shows a lot for this generation.”
The Eco-Fashion Show also served as a platform for the fashion models to talk about the eco-friendly changes in their industry. Smith said fashion has made “leaps and bounds” in terms of recognizing what eco-conscious consumers are looking for.
“It’s becoming very sexy to be sustainable,” she said. “I’m so happy that it’s taking hold in even more brands and fashion houses.”
Tina Wong, PS 34’s sustainability coach from the National Wildlife Federation, put together the show starting in January. Each month, she hosted a workshop where students and parents learned about the fashion show and its themes, how to used recycled items and came up with narratives for each design.
To help the students get started, Wong posed questions that helped them frame the issues. She asked them to consider, what the problem is, why it’s important and what people can do to find a solution.
In their second workshop, Wong invited the nonprofit Material for the Arts to show students how to innovatively reuse recycled materials. Then the students began designing at home.
“This is something the families can do with their kids,” Wong said. “With these workshops, it helps make it a little less intimidating.”
Students and parents sent photos of their outfits to Wong, who used that to gauge their progress along the way.
Wong said the entire project teaches students not just themes of sustainability, but how to solve problems and walk through the design process.
After students identify the issue and brainstorm ideas to address it, they design and construct the actual outfit. Once they’re finished designing, they evaluate and make adjustments to their design.
“They’re really thinking about how things work, how things don’t work,” she said. “They’re going out to look at things a little closer, and this is something we don’t normally teach from a textbook.”
Wong said she hopes students will carry these lessons, and the fashion show, with them in the future.
“We’re building these memories and experiences I know they’re never going to forget,” she said. “It’s about experiencing it and being in a celebration like this at the end.”